I arrived at Ascot on Saturday and immediately realised that is was one of those days to celebrate simply being alive. Terrific autumn weather coupled with as high quality a card of Flat racing as I can recall combined to lift the soul.
As it transpired, the soul needed no lifting whatsoever when Jack Hobbs galloped into the frame to reward last week’s readers of my 20/1 each way tip. Only the wallet needed lifting off the floor, for the first time in what has felt like an eternity.
The day, however, belonged to Almanzor and to Minding. The former stamped his authority as indisputably the best middle distance colt-in-training this side of the Atlantic and the latter put the seal on a sensational season as one of the best fillies we’ve had the pleasure of enjoying in many a long summer.
Remember, this was the filly who landed the Classic double over a mile and then a mile and a half back in the early part of the season. Regular readers will know one of my favourite horses of all time was the great Sea The Stars, not just for his unbeaten run in 2009, but every bit as much for the verve with which he campaigned over various distances on varied ground.
Minding, of course, was defeated in late summer but, to my mind, lost next to nothing in such a defeat and her return against the boys, over a mile, on Saturday stole the show. We will be talking about her in years to come.
I am a member of the Turf Club in London’s St James’s area. On the stairs down to the cloakroom are a series of caricatures, featuring characters from the sport in the 19th century. I have often wondered who would be most easy to characterise in a modern day equivalent.
John McCririck, undoubtedly. John Gosden, most likely. Rich Ricci and John Magnier from the elite owning ranks. But far and away the easiest silhouette to identify would surely be the astonishingly angular James Fanshawe.
The Newmarket handler has always struck me as in need of a good meal or ten but, thanks to The Tin Man, he reminded me too of his unerring knack of squeezing the very best out of his crop at precisely the right time.
The Tin Man might not be crowned champion sprinter this season, but deserves to be on the shortlist and the scenes from the syndicate who own him in Saturday’s Winners Enclosure were up there with the most the remarkable of the season.
The Fanshawe team looks like a fun team and, on days like Champions Day when so much is at stake, that’s the highest of accolades.
Jim Crowley was crowned champion jockey at Ascot. I don’t profess to know him all that well but the 66/1 start of season outsider made his dream his reality by lifting the championship surrounded by his family.
His affability, his modesty and his graft combined to make this one of the happiest celebrations imaginable and the guard of honour he received from the Weighing Room (and a few of us hangers-on) was one of near universal delight.
Even Ryan Moore must have been smiling by the end of the day, Minding having given him his first win on Champions Day since its inception, can you believe?
Looking ahead, we have what I consider to be the last ember of the season on Saturday at Doncaster. Hand on heart, the Racing Post Trophy has not been my favourite meeting, principally on account of feeling cold and poor as it always falls at the end of a month and before pay day.
I shan’t be travelling to Town Moor this weekend and wouldn’t ordinarily be cheering on the recent Beresford Stakes winner Capri, were it not for the fact that Aidan O’Brien is hunting down Bobby Frankel’s Group One record. If you’re not punting like me this weekend, cheer on the record-seeker.